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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Making your dialogue shine like a diamond.

Lately, I have been obsessed with dialogue. Does my dialogue sound natural? Would my characters really say that? Heck, would anyone really say that? Dialogue can be very tricky. It can make or break a novel. It can give you a fast track into a characters head or make your characters seem like two pieces of cardboard with nothing to distinguish them.

I’m a craft book junkie. I’ll admit it. But I swear craft books have helped me grow as a writer tremendously. My newest book that I am reading is “Writing Dialogue” by Tom Chiarella. I’ve just started the book, and I had the brilliant idea that it would be fun for some of my fellow writers to come on the journey with me. So, for the next several blogs that I write, I am going to give you a few of the exercises to do that Mr. Chiarella assigns in his book. Then I want to hear how it went for you and what you think you learned.

STOP! Don’t close this blog as the idea of ‘homework’ sets in and causes a panic to make you sweat. This will be virtually painless, I promise. And if not, remember, I’m doing it with you and misery loves company! Plus, we will be growing as writers, prepping ourselves to become the next NYT bestsellers. So here goes:

Exercise (Provided by Mr. Chiarella)

Listen to yourself. Spend the day recording what you say. In order and trying to grab every sound. Don’t worry about punctuation. Don’t leave out little words such as eh, huh, hi, etc. Don’t note where you go or skip lines to indicate the passage of time. Don’t tell anyone what you are doing or reveal what you are doing. Find some private moments here and there to jot down what you have said. Start NOW and finish when you crawl into bed tonight.

Do not shape what you say when you don’t like the way you sound. Save this document and type it up line by line. We will use it next week. Good luck! If your so inclined share your first few lines with me here. Here are the first things I said this morning.

You like the kitty? My phones dirty. I'm sure Inge would go for that.

I swear the first is not dirty!!!

Julie Johnstone
The Marchioness of Mayhem


  1. This sounds like fun, Julie.

    Here are the first things I said this morning:

    Good morning, sweetheart, it's time to wake up. Come on, Brandt, it's time to get out of bed. You've got a big day ahead of you.

    SEVERAL MINUTES LATER, yelling from the other room...

    Brandt! Get out of bed and get dressed!

  2. This could be hilarious.

    Okay, first words out of my mouth today?

    Get out of the way before you get stepped on again. (Kitten cries in background.) Augh! I told you.

  3. How funny!

    My first words today...

    I'm cold.

    Stop that!

    Keaton (cat) has been sneezing all night.

    I'll go make coffee.

  4. These are great, ladies. Thanks for sharing. This exercise is time consuming! I've written so much my hand is cramping, and I have not written everything I said. I have officially learned that I talk too much!

  5. Mine was:

    Come in Liv. Did you sleep well?

    (As my daughter climbs into bed with me. She's always too grumpy in the morning to talk back.)

  6. Hmmm...I think I said

    "Good morning, babies!" to pups
    "Who's hungry?" to pups
    "I'm moving in!" to my friend when I showed up at her house with a duffel bag full of books from Nationals.
    With as much 'talking' I do on Twitter and what not, it is amazing that the third thing I said this morning was after NOON!

  7. Hmm...I said...

    "Time to get up."
    "I don't wanna go to work today..." whine... lol
    "I'm hungry."
    LOL I'm so boring.

  8. This is interesting. I wish I could remember what I said first thing, but I'm getting a head cold and my brain is fuzzy. I do remember saying this a short while ago:

    "John, I'm on the precipice of slackness. I wouldnt pay any attention to me."

    I'm not making much sense today.... LOL

  9. What a neat exercise! Good grief I could fill volumes on what I said today. I run a bakery. I probably say "We need more French bread out there." at least twenty times a day.

    First thing this AM?

    "Boudreaux get off my chest, I can't breathe." (Boudreaux is my 65 pound basset hound)

    "Okay, everybody up and out. Hurry up and get it done." Said as I herd my house dogs outside to take care of business.

    "Where the *&^% are my keys?" Said at least once every morning.

    "Bye babies. Mama has to go make dog food money. Everybody behave."

    "Another day at Walmart. (Groan) I really need to sell a book."